The longest trail in Kansas and the eighth-longest rail-trail in the United States will be expanded with the help of a $24.8 million federal grant. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s Office say the grant to the Flint Hills Trail is coming via the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” (RAISE) program.
“No other trail connects more communities, cultures, and landscapes in our state than Flint Hills Trail State Park,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “I’m thrilled the RAISE grant selection committee recognized its value to Kansas, and that the 19 rural communities located along the trail will benefit from this project to make the trail safer and more accessible for public recreation.”
RAISE grants are designed to “help urban and rural communities move forward on projects that modernize roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, and intermodal transportation” while focusing on safety, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability. On August 11, 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Kansas State Parks would be awarded $24,821,705 in grant funding for Flint Hills Trail State Park.
A 2021 economic impact study conducted by Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research determined that Flint Hills Trail State Park provides more than $1.8 million in economic impact to the communities through which it passes. Linda Lanterman, Director of Kansas State Parks, believes that number will be surpassed in the near future.
“Flint Hills Trail State Park has already brought new businesses to Ottawa, and we expect completion of the trail will provide the same benefits to the communities the trail will soon reach,” said Lanterman. “Having now secured this RAISE grant, I’m confident Flint Hills Trail will become a prime destination not only for Kansans but for trail enthusiasts across the nation.”
Organized into six phases, the Flint Hills Trail RAISE grant project will make infrastructure improvements on 40.5 miles of the trail, including opening 27 miles of the trail, from Council Grove to Herington.
“Flint Hills Trail State Park presents a remarkable opportunity for exercise, nature-viewing, and tourism in some of Kansas’ most beautiful areas,” said Brad Loveless, Secretary for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “Thanks to this grant, and the amazing partnerships formed since the trail’s inception – especially those with trail volunteers and cooperating landowners and neighbors – we’re now closer to completing Flint Hills Trail.”
The grant awarded for Flint Hills Trail State Park will be specifically invested in drainage improvements, pipes, culverts, bridges, base improvements, limestone surfacing, fences and gates, bollards, safety improvements and signage. This will open the full length of the Flint Hills Trail’s 118 miles, making it part of 186 miles of directly connected trails in eastern Kansas.
“We’ve been actively developing Flint Hills Trail since 2014, making improvements as funds were available,” said Jeffrey Bender, Regional Supervisor for Kansas State Parks and co-author of the grant application. “Despite the immense amount of work still ahead of us, we’re extremely proud of our accomplishments to date, including obtaining the U.S. Department of Interior’s ‘National Recreation Trail’ designation in 2020 and receiving the Federal Highway Administration’s ‘Environmental Excellence Award’ in 2022. Being awarded this RAISE grant is just further proof of this trail’s regional and national significance.”
Bender added, “This grant award wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of Kansas State Parks staff, the 12 towns along the trail, landowners, volunteers, Kansas Department of Transportation and National Park Service. We’re extremely grateful for their support.”
To learn more about Flint Hills Trail State Park, visit https://ksoutdoors.com/State-Parks/Locations/Flint-Hills-Trail.
For more information on the RAISE program, including the complete list of awardees for 2022, visit https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/biden-harris-administration-announces-funding-166-projects-modernize-transportation.